Sam Ross Jr.

Sam Ross Jr.

The Monday Night Football match-up between the 0-3 Steelers and the similarly win-challenged Cincinnati Bengals is worth watching if only to see how the broadcasters can spin this as a worthwhile expenditure of prime television broadcast time.

I'd expect them to mention the playoff math, as in through 2018 only six of 176 NFL teams that had begun a season 0-3 since 1980 had rallied to make the playoffs.

But, hey, one of those occurred just last season when the Houston Texans went from woeful start to wild-card finish.

The broadcast crew might even cue up footage of Jim Carey's character from the movie “Dumb and Dumber” getting the news from the girl he desires that he has about a one in a million shot at getting together with her.

“So, you're telling me there's a chance,” he says. “Yeah!”

Presuming no tie Monday night, either the Steelers or Bengals head forward at 1-3. The loser departs at 0-4 and even the dumb-and-dumber crowd would write the end to playoff aspirations for that losing team.

The crowd on the Steelers fan bandwagon already has been thinned by the season's results, beginning with the one-sided beating administered by the New England Patriots in week one, only to be backed up by two more losses and the season-ending arm injury suffered by quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Last season was a tough one, with the Steelers missing the playoffs and all that. But at least hope remained alive to the bitter end.

To have what Steelers fans believe to be their birthright – a spot in the playoffs – all but snatched away less than 20 percent into the season leaves a gaping void.

Some will be sure to watch this Bengals game, if only because recent results between the two suggest it's a game the Steelers could and should win.

Nothing wrong with an 0-3 Steelers team that a date with The Bungles can't cure, right?

Beyond this game, a search of the remaining schedule for win opportunities produces few hits. There is the rematch with the Bengals Nov. 24 in Cincinnati, a pre-Thanksgiving Day turkey of a game.

Before that, the Steelers host Miami on Oct. 28 in yet another game scheduled for prime time TV.

There are rooting interests beyond the given week's opponent that the fans of the Steelers might focus on to take the tedium out of the season.

There's always rooting against New England each and every week, which many fans manage to find time for even when the Steelers are having a successful season.

This sentiment had an added attraction when ex-Steeler Antonio Brown was, briefly, on the Patriots roster, even though he didn't arrive until after the Steelers had played the Patriots. Alas, A.B. is no longer there.

Opportunity to root against a former Steeler player who finessed his way off the team comes up Dec. 22 when the New York Jets, and running back Le'Veon Bell, provide the opposition. Unfortunately, it's an away game for the Steelers, so most fans won't have a chance to boo Bell in person.

Schadenfreude, which is deriving pleasure from the misfortune of others, will be the word of the day for Steelers fans who scoreboard watch and greet with glee word that Baltimore or Cleveland is not faring well on any particular weekend. They play each other this week.

Steelers fans also can join the chorus of disgruntled fans rooting against the NFL's game officials.

No less a source than Patriots quarterback Tom Brady tweeted two Thursdays back that he was turning off that night's game due to not wanting to watch more “ridiculous penalties.”

Offensive holding calls, for example, were up 66 percent through two weeks of this season compared to the first two weeks of 2018.

Plus, what is or isn't pass interference, even on the challenge reviews, continues to baffle the audience, and even those expert officiating guys every broadcast seems to have.

In fairness, there are a lot of penalties being called that are more a reflection on undisciplined players and poor fundamentals than overly picky officials.

Still, it's obvious the officials are throwing too many questionable flags and blowing dead too many plays.

I'm thinking that just may be because they've been caught up in the whole political scene and its selective embrace of whistleblowers, as long as they are advancing the proper agenda.

NFL officials apparently didn't realize the term whistleblower was to be taken figuratively, not literally.

Sam Ross Jr. is a freelance journalist who writes a weekly column for The Tribune-Democrat.

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